By: Will Burchfield
Andre Drummond put up an easy 17 points and 17 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double in the Pistons’ fourth-straight win on Monday night, 111-91 over a good Portland team, but his play transcended the stat sheet.
On defense, particularly against the pick-and-roll, Drummond was terrific. He extended beyond the basket to disrupt Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum numerous times, while also protecting his territory down low. Portland’s dynamic duo was held in check from start to finish.
“It was my job tonight to really just make them uncomfortable. Get into them and really make them make decisions,” Drummond said. “They took a lot of tough shots, a lot of off-balance jump shots and runners. … I think our pick-and-roll defense was very good tonight, and obviously the scoreboard showed it.”
Drummond was the nucleus of that defense, just as he’s been the nucleus of this Pistons team. His performance on Monday night was another reminder of the breadth of his ability. For Stan Van Gundy, games like these are satisfying, yes, but equally seductive.
“The dilemma with Andre is he does so many good things and he’s so good and he’s so talented, so I want it all the time — all the time,” Van Gundy said. “He’s playing great, he’s having a great year, and I’m still pushing for more and more and more.”
This has long been the case with Drummond, a 24-year-old now in his sixth NBA season. (Think about that for a minute.) His unique physical gifts project an incredibly high ceiling. The difference this season, surely the best of his career, is that Drummond is reaching that ceiling on a fairly consistent basis. He’s thus pushing it even higher.
He’s averaging 15 points and a league-high 15.3 rebounds per game. His rebounding rate, by the way, is the highest in the NBA since another Pistons big man, Ben Wallace, averaged 15.4 in 2002-03. (Think about that, too.) If success begets further success, so does it beget perhaps an unfair question: Could those numbers be closer to 20 and 20?
Or: Could that defense be flawless every night?
Or: Could that All-Star nod, which Drummond earned last week, become an annual honor?
Drummond laughed innocently when it was suggested to him he can’t do much more than what he’s already doing.
“Yeah, man, I feel like –” he started and then stopped, as if to say, C’mon, Coach!
But he fully understands where Van Gundy is coming from.
“He sees greatness in me. He knows that I can always go to another level, so he’s just trying to get there,” Drummond said. “Pushing our team to another lever is really what it is.”
Even for a team that just acquired a five-time All-Star in Blake Griffin, Drummond feels like the most critical player. When he’s on, and this pertains to his energy as much as his rhythm, his impact is huge. He’s certainly been on of late. In the four games since the Griffin trade, Drummond, seemingly invigorated by the addition of a bonafide star to the Pistons’ roster, is averaging 18.7 points and 17 rebounds.
He’s beginning to look like a bonafide star himself.
“Guy’s been fantastic,” said Van Gundy.
He was named the NBA’s Player of the Week for his efforts last week, his first time receiving the honor since early in the 2015-16 season. On Friday, in Detroit’s win over Miami, he became the first player to record at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, four blocks and four steals in a single game since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989. (Think about that, too!)
It’s been a satisfying few days for Drummond, who was originally snubbed for the All-Star Game. (An injury to John Wall opened up a spot on the roster.) He said his invitation to the NBA’s marquee midseason event was especially meaningful to his mom. But don’t think it didn’t matter to him, too.
“Man, just the turnaround. I stayed the course, I stuck with it, continued to play hard, and then the rewards come when they’re due to come,” Drummond said. “I’m just going to keep going from here.”
Meanwhile, Van Gundy will keep asking for more, because Drummond keeps proving he has more to give.